Small Business

The Better Half of Everything


By Lisa Bergson A real homebody, my husband does not share my yen for travel -- one of our few incompatibilities. When Factory Days started almost three years ago, I vowed never to write about him or my close friends. After all, just because I'm comfortable with self-revelation doesn't mean they are. Yet it seems somehow wrong not to acknowledge the person who helps me the most. "You're not going to make me blush," he warns.

"I've never seen you blush. Do you blush?" I ask. We'll see.

Fair-skinned, blue-eyed and balding, Jerry does tend to a certain pinkness. Since BusinessWeek is not the forum to portray the total man, I'll skip the more husbandly things and concentrate on his contribution to my professional life.

INHOUSE CONSULTANT. For someone who's always worked for huge corporations, Jerry has proven to be remarkably sympathetic to the proclivities of the entrepreneur. He recognizes that decisions are not always economic or, for that matter, even rational. For example, MEECO's market is so small and fragmented, I often fret over whether it really makes sense to pour so much effort into it. But I love my company and its heritage to such an extent that I cannot bear to let it go.

Mellow and tolerant, Jerry is a great match to my more passionate nature. He's also kind, loyal, hard-working, highly intelligent, widely knowledgeable, and very, very funny. May you all be so blessed. Notably -- and few women will believe this -- Jerry's a great listener. (How many men will spend lengthy car trips, coaching you through the halting rehearsal a rather boring business presentation?)

A consultant by profession, he's used to assimilating different points of view, analyzing problems, and, best of all, helping you to find your own solution. I know that many happily married couples never discuss work. It's almost all we talk about. On the drive home, I look forward to telling him about my day and hearing about his. We often call each other's cell phones to get a jump start. Jerry says simply, "I love you, and I want to share your life. That's what we do." (Hey, I waited 42 years to meet this guy.)

FAITH, HOPE, AND CLARITY. Now, it's not like I can't mind my own business. I ran MEECO for ten years before we even met. But, looking back, it was so hard, lonely, and, at times, agonizing that I don't know how I did it. There was no one to turn to in emergencies, like the first time I had to lay off a large number of my people. Depressed and demoralized, I actually considered closing shop and packing it in.

Since we've been together, such thoughts rarely occur, no matter how bad it gets. When I come home, I can count on a warm pair of arms to hold and comfort me. Then again, it doesn't hurt that Jerry is an incurable optimist. "As an actuary, I'm a respecter of trends," he quips. "Besides, I have faith in you."

And Jerry does more than keep the faith. Given the wrenching cycles of the semiconductor industry, still in its steepest, longest downturn, I frequently go without pay. My personal Prince Charming makes this possible, not only through his generosity, but also by (almost) never carping. "You're trying to build something," as he sees it.

CORRECT ORIENTATION. Like Prince Charming, he has also helped to transform me. For years, I put off going to Asia, fearful that my gender would alienate customers. One Japanese independent sales-rep outfit actually soured on us after discovering I wasn't Mr. Lisa Bergson. Finally, at the insistence of their successor that I visit and thank the customers, I agreed to go. Jerry bought me a new wardrobe of conservative, but chic, Calvin Klein threads for the trip. Then, in a grand show of support, my homebody paid his own way to join me, playing corporate spouse until I gained enough confidence to go it alone.

Beyond that, Jerry is so committed to my companies' success that he has repeatedly put up funds when no one else would. There's the Mother Cay Memorial Ceiling, a badly needed renovation paid for with a good portion of his mom's inheritance. There are the eight vacation days he burns through every year, serving gratis on both Tiger Optics and MEECO Advisory Boards.

And there's the sizable amount he lent me to spinoff Tiger from its former parent, MEECO, at a price set by an independent appraiser. "A smart move," he asserts. "I was glad to be in a position to do it." Indeed, when it comes to business, he is more than just a partner. He's my angel.

Now, Jerry, did I make you blush? Lisa Bergson is President and CEO of both MEECO and Tiger Optics. Before joining MEECO in 1983, Lisa Bergson worked as a business journalist at BusinessWeek and freelanced for many business publications. You can visit her companies' Web sites at www.meeco.com and www.tigeroptics.com, or contact her at lbergson@meeco.com


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